Why is this interesting? - The Sonic Edition
On Sega, Sonic, and the current state of videogames
Colin here. One of my most vivid memories with technology was when we sold off some Nintendo games and used the proceeds to upgrade to the Sega Genesis. It was one of those much anticipated purchases, and I am unlikely to replicate the feeling again. But the culminating moment was playing Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time on a new Sony television. It was revelatory.
The experience was so far beyond anything that a consumer home console gamer could have experienced at the time. The graphics were a huge step up from the comparably flat and pixelated Nintendo, which had beloved characters but now seemed behind the times. Characters on Genesis were rendered in a vivid and colorful 3D. But what I distinctly remember is how fast the game was compared to what we had recognized. Sonic was zooming through loops, collecting coins, and generally moving with a pace that somehow scratched an itch in my young, over-sugared brain. (That same itch would be later satiated by drum and bass music, but that’s another story.) The Sonic experience was truly something that seemed like an astonishing level up from what had preceded it. And though tech has evolved a lot, it will always stay in my memory. There’s even a fun little meme about it:
Why is this Interesting?
Cut to today, the space has grown up in an incredible way. The dazzle I experienced seems quaint by comparison. I have been out of the dialed-in gaming space for some time, but observing some of the magic that is being exhibited across every genre today, it is actually a true creative renaissance that I don’t think always gets its due in culture. Unless you are an active participant in gaming and its subcultures, the nuance and scale of the gaming world doesn't equal how the media covers movies, television, and Netflix binging.
This contradiction is even more vivid when Netflix actually called out the attention being spent on Fortnite as a competitor, even more than HBO. This is sizable and meaningful creativity that is garnering countless hours of attention minutes around the world.
When you look at the column inches in the Times, and other large lifestyle publications, most gaming is treated as the stoner little brother in the basement and given second fiddle despite being a multi billion dollar industry today and predicted to grow to 300 billion annually by 2025. Of course, things do pop up into the mainstream with monster successes like Fortnite, or last week when the old talking points correlating video games to violence get trotted out like wildfire. But to truly understand the movers or culture, sometimes we need to look beyond books, movies and internet memes, and see what billions of people every day are lapping up from their consoles and screens. (CJN)
I’m sure Colin turned me onto this one at some point, but one of my favorite mixes to work to is the Nicolas Jaar Essential Mix. It’s great all the way through and has a crazy opening song that includes a whole speech by the composer Angelo Badalamenti describing how he wrote the theme for Twin Peaks with David Lynch. (NRB)
I was struck by this Toni Morrison quote that David Remnick included in his Talk of the Town for this week: “[Racism] keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms, and you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” (NRB)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)